The UN and the government of Bangladesh are calling for more international aid to help refugees as they face a “difficult year”.
Concerns are growing over the World Food Program (WFP) decision to cut food aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh due to a funding crisis.
On March 1, the WFP, citing a shortfall of $125 million, cut monthly food stamps for refugees from $12 to $10 per person, warning that further cuts were “imminent” without an immediate injection of cash.
More than a million Rohingya refugees live in camps in Cox’s Bazar, most having fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
The United Nations and the government of Bangladesh on Tuesday called for more international aid to help the Rohingya in what has become the world’s largest refugee camp.
“The response plan that was launched today is asking for $883 million from the international community,” Shahariar Sadat, an academic at BRAC University in Dhaka, told Al Jazeera.
Sadat said 2023 could be a “difficult year” for nearly a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, urging international funding to be “more equitable”.
“I think the world is not looking at the crisis on an equal footing and that is why we are not getting enough funds to manage the crisis. I think there is a lack of attention here and I hope this doesn’t become a forgotten crisis,” he said.
Last week, New York-based Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned that cutting aid would put hundreds of thousands of Rohingya at serious risk of malnutrition by bringing the number of calories per person below the minimum accepted standard of 2,100 calories per day.
“Funding has declined and the number of aid organizations working in Cox’s Bazar has dropped by almost 80%,” said Claudio Miglietta, MSF representative in Bangladesh.
Thousands homeless after fire, UN says
Meanwhile, the UN said more than 12,000 Rohingya refugees have been left homeless due to a the fire that swept a camp in Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh.
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that more than 2,000 shelters and some 90 facilities, including hospitals and learning centers, had been destroyed in The Sunday Fire.
Bangladesh is investigating the cause of the fire, Refugee Assistance and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman said. “Once we receive the report, it will be clear whether this is an act of sabotage or not,” he added.
Fires often break out in the overcrowded camp with makeshift structures. A massive fire in March 2021 killed at least 15 refugees and destroyed more than 10,000 homes.
Resident Shafiur Rahman, 24, urged authorities to provide better facilities. “Our houses were burned down in Myanmar. Now we are going through the same thing here,” he said.
Amnesty International has also called on the government of Bangladesh to provide safer accommodation for refugees.
“The government should recognize the danger of keeping large communities in unsafe and overcrowded conditions and take steps to provide adequate and safe housing for the Rohingya community,” said Yasasmin Kaviratne, the organization’s regional campaign manager for South Asia.
Rising crime, harsh living conditions and bleak prospects for returning to Myanmar are pushing more and more Rohingya refugees to leave Bangladesh by boat for countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, putting their lives in danger. UN data shows that 348 Rohingya died at sea last year.